The Springhill Institution was not in lockdown Wednesday contrary to rumours in the community. Christopher Gooding - Amherst Daily News
SPRINGHILL - Inmates at Springhill Institution were not in lockdown yesterday for rioting against an upcoming smoking ban, prison officials said.
A rumour began circulating in Springhill Wednesday, that the institution was in lockdown after inmates began to protest a federal smoking ban in the prison.
Deputy warden Deb Eason said the comments were an exaggeration.
"We had a power outage today," Eason said. "We weren't in lockdown. Prisoners had freedom of movement. It was nothing serious."
Staff at Springhill Institution, however, were using emergency power and lights to hold meetings and discuss how the federal smoking ban will impact the system. It's been no secret staff and inmates have been told the number of days left they can have a puff on institution property are numbered. A total smoking ban in Atlantic Canada's federal institutions takes effect May 20.
"Tonight is the last night we're selling inmates tobacco," Eason confirmed. "We've spent the day in a lot of meetings and making preparations."
Corrections Canada's major concern is the coping abilities of smokers being asked to kick the habit, Eason says. Preparations for the first smoke-free day at the institution have been ongoing but with the deadline closer than ever it is just a matter of time before staff will know how the ban will be embraced.
"We've got staff and inmates where the tensions are pretty high. They're valid feelings. Some people don't want to quit."
Springhill Institution staff are prepared for anything as the ban plays out, Eason said, and a variety of support networks and access to smoking cessation programs are available to both staff and inmates.